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The One Trick Pony Moving to JP - Advice Please!

Alright, after years of keeping roots in Cambridge, I'm heading over the river to JP very soon. I'm seeking recommendations in these categories:

MUST TRY places that I've not hit up yet (like the new El Oriental). I know Alex's Chimis and the secret roti place, James Gate, Ten Tables, Costellos and that's about it. Help a girl out, here!

BECOME A REGULAR kinds of places. My favorites in Cambridge would be Armando's, Formaggio Kitchen, Charlie's Kitchen and the Forest Cafe. Sometimes Cambridge Common and/or Chez Henri. Not highest on the food list, but good for other things (like paying only $6.50 for a Makers Mark and Bud back at Charlie's.)

COFFEE Where's the best cup o' dark roast going to come from? I liked stopping by City Feed on the way to Stonybrook.

And finally, TAKEOUT THAT WON'T WRECK MY DIET. Where can I get a healthy meal when I'm dragging my @ss home after the gym? Salads, asian food, soups, grilled fish?

Oh, and any favorite 'hounding stops on the orange line or 39 bus that I should know about? There's a whole new subway line for me to explore, hooray!

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  1. Well, I'm assuming that you already know about the weekend brunch at Centre Street Cafe, right?

    Hints: be there a little before opening for the first seating or be prepared to wait. However, they will let you come in and grab a cup of coffee from the self-serve station in the back to take while you wait.

    1. For takeout after the gym, try Wonder Spice (on Centre St) for Cambodian/Vietnamese. I think most of their dishes taste better in house, but with the exception of the fried stuff most of it holds up well for takeout. You should also check out La Papusa Guanica (near Alex's Chimis), but be prepared to wait or call ahead. Delicious Papusas that travel fairly well. Purple Cactus has some pretty healthy offerings (they will put grilled tofu on just about anything you want) and is worth exploring....nothing I'd go out of my way for, but it's a decent option when you want quick, healthy, and fairly tasty wrap/salad/burrito fare.

      Coffee.....well, you have a few choices and you'll have to pick your own favorite. JP Licks roasts their own in house, and it's good. I prefer Sweet Finnish because I'm not really into dark roast, plus they have the cardamom-flavored pulla rolls that I adore.

      Welcome to JP!

      1. you might like the dogwood cafe near forest hills. good pizzas and decent entrees, good beer selection, cozy atmosphere. doyles is good for the beer but skip the food if you can! i've heard lots of good things about cha fahn--they have a newly expanded menu that looks great--but i still haven't gone in there other than for a cup of tea. definitely very healthy but probably not takeout-conducive.

        JP seafood cafe on centre st (japanese/korean) is a good healthy takeout option. their sushi has gotten better over the years, in my opinion, and they have the usual variety of soups and salads. there's also a harvest co-op which is a little trashy but will do in a pinch. and city feed & supply (right by the boylston T-stop) is awesome--wonderful sandwiches, small but well-chosen selection of groceries.

        finally, you're a short bus ride or drive from roslindale which also has lots of great options (delfinos, sophia's grotto, various bakeries and other ethnic markets).

        welcome to the neighborhood!

        3 Replies
        1. re: alyssap99

          I really like the Dogwood, too, especially as a "become a regular" type of place. That's assuming MB is moving to that part of JP though. The Dogwood has excellent pizzas, especially if you tell them to cook them well-done.

          Of course, if you REALLY want to become a regular in JP, you need to find yourself a local. Again, depends on where you're living in JP. And the "type" of place you like. Griffins (by the Dogwood) will appeal to anybody into David Lynch films. The Fireside is more of a casual, neighborhood place. Costello's is sort of the Tim's Tavern (including good burgers) of JP. Triple D's was eaten whole by the Alchemist, which some people like (food's okay, crowd's a little poseur for my tastes). The Midway's great for live, local music. James's Gate is an amazing hang-out-with-friends-by-the-fireplace-and-talk hangout (and also has surprisingly good food). Just explore. It's fun. Except at Griffin's. That place is just scary.

          1. re: Bostonbob3

            griffins has always intrigued/frightened me for just those reasons!i don't know anyone who's actually been inside though...

            1. re: alyssap99

              Oh, I've been inside many times (usually after a full night of drinking at The Fireside). It's, uh, interesting, if you're into real characters. :0

        2. Cafe D is awesome. Creative but judicious pairing of flavours, careful cooking. In many ways, I like it more than Chez Henri. Plus they have a few varieties of grilled fish.

          1. welcome to jp.

            a caveat: i divide my time b/w jp and cambridge, and i think that, chow-wise, cambridge is approximately 47.8 times better than jp. that said, there are some decent places (most of which have been mentioned, but i feel the need to be opinionated for a moment.)

            1. coffee: mostly, city feed is it. jp licks is the same run of the mill stuff they serve anywhere, and don't let them fool you about sweet finnish--if you like their coffee, you don't like coffee. sweet christophers (up the street a block or so from jp licks) is a newish "dessert bar" that serves coffee, tea, espresso, etc.. they seem decent, though not really a true coffee fanatic's hangout. there's a place by the green street stop called "ula cafe" or something that was supposed to open in the fall, but it keeps getting pushed back. got my fingers crossed on that one. there's a place called "java jo's" by forest hills t. it's not bad.

            2. must try: 10 tables. i don't think el oriental is a must try for any reason other than the hype it gets on this board. it's pretty good. but not a "must try" in my book. cha fahn might be, but i haven't been so i don't know. (yet.) pizza at dogwood, i'd say--if you like thin crust pizza, probably the best i've had so far in boston. alchemist and cafe d's look like they'd be good, but i haven't been.

            3. takeout: i like food wall. actually, i just like their shredded chicken w/onions special. but it will probably wreck your diet. it's better than charlie chan's, closer in the center of jp. pupusa guanaca might be better for you, but as mentioned, be prepared to wait.

            4. places to be a regular: i like wonder spice, nothing too special, but not too shabby. same old place is nice if you just want a quick slice. the burger i had at costello's was pretty good. bella luna is pretty good italian/american/slightly eclectic. (nice pizza's too.) zon's does comfort food pretty well.

            4.1. places NOT to be a regular: bukhara is TERRIBLE. i envy cantabrigians for their easy access to tamarind bay, kebab factory and punjabi dhaba. coming from cambridge, don't even bother. the thai place ("ban chiang" is it?) in jp center i thought was pretty mediocre too, but that was a long time ago, so maybe they've changed. others disagree, but i persist in finding sorella's to be dirty and not very good food.

            5. bakeries: sweet finnish--the pulla (cardamom rolls) are nice when they are fresh, but in my experience they are often stale. they have a wonderful space but surprisingly little selection. (NB: pulla surprise is pulla with a slice of apple on top. since the apple is on top, it's not really a surprise.) fiore's does good cannolis. canto 6 is hands-down, no-contest the best bakery in jp. on a par with hi-rise, i'd say (losing only b/c they don't have the same selection of breads; what they do have is mostly awesome though.)

            ok, so those are my opinions, or at least the ones i can think of now. welcome to jp...

            2 Replies
            1. re: autopi

              I'm surprised no one's mentioned the Alchemist as a hang out. Not super cheap but seems like that kind of place if I were to ever be a regular somewhere. Galway House is filled with a certain kind of regular, man it's been years since I've been there.

              Don't forget Blue Frog for a bakery. They serve coffee along with Canto 6, not sure how it fares for real coffee drinkers.

              As mentioned above and in a million other JP threads, Food Wall is pretty decent takeout Chinese.

              If you don't want to wait in line for a nicer breakfast or eat super early, Bon Savor is the place to go. Forest Hills Diner is a quick greasy spoon.

              1. re: Joanie

                I've not tried the Alchemist, but my JP friends don't speak very highly of it. I was thinking of you when I added this post, as you always seem to promote the 39 bus 'hounding route!

            2. Some of these might be repetitive of other replies but, here are my JP favorites:

              I find most of the sit down restaurant food in JP a bit overpriced for the quality, but I do like Zon's a lot, and I am not a comfort food type person.

              La Papusa - I recommend ordering your food there, going to the Behan, ordering a pint, finishing almost half your pint, getting your food, bringing it back to the Behan, eat, and then clean up after yourself and throw your trash away in the garbage outside the bar.

              Yelli's Coffee Shop - Delicious oil fried chicken, pork chops, chicherone, sausages, and plantains. I find that their food is more flavorful (and less dry) than Alex's Chimis and a bit cheaper.

              Fiore's Bakery - Amazing scones and delicious coffee.

              Wonder Spice - While I do not like most of their main dishes (with the exception of the Crispy Fish which you must eat there since it does not travel well), I do like a handful of their appetizers.

              El Oriental - Delicious! Make sure to try their cafe con leche and mango milkshake.

              James's Gate - While I feel that their food has gone a bit downhill lately, it is a very comfortable pub (especially during the Winter when the fire is going).

              And, don't forget that you are not far from many delicious eats in Roslindale (Las Palmas), West Roxbury (Samias), and Dorchester (Ali's Rotis).

              What is this secret roti place mentioned earlier?

              1. Well, you knew I'd need to chime in on your thread MB. I'm sad that you are crossing the river ... now I fear I'll never run into you at Armandos, etc.

                But I have good friends in JP and from visiting them, I'd offer the following:

                I've done the pupusa / Brendan Beehan thing many times. I like the Beehan a lot and they don't mind if you bring in your food if you clean up after yourself as suggested above.

                City Feed is great for sandwiches. Cheaper than Hi-Rise, but in that vein.

                Breakfast at Doyle's is not good, but my pals like it. I'd head to Bon Savor instead.

                Dogwood pizza is very good, def. order it well done. Skip the Milky Way. I am sad to write that as a few chums work there and one of them even makes the pizza, but she doesn't read this site so she'll never know how I feel. Shhhh.....

                I've only been to Oriental once and didn't care for the cubano. Do yourself a favor and come back to Chez Henri when you are in the mood. The soups look appealing, though. Plenty to check out on the menu.

                Good sushi at JP seafood and of course Bukhara is basically Diva so if you like one, you'll like the other. Takeout only. Trust me.

                10 Tables is a must, and I understand Cafe D is really very good too.

                I look forward to reading your posts about your new hood. Wah!

                5 Replies
                1. re: yumyum

                  I'm not sure I'm going to add anything new but as a somewhat new JP resident I thought I'd chime in.


                  Canto 6: definitely the GO-TO spot for fresh baked breads, pastries. mmmm.

                  Downscale beer & burger: Costello's. Sort of like JP's version of the old Tim's Tavern in the south end.

                  Upscale beer & burger: Alchemist. This is a fun spot to relax either at the bar or at a table. Most of the food is pretty good, nothing earth-shattering, but good, and a pretty good selection of beers on tap (not so for Costello's, though they do have Sam)

                  Asian: definitely JP Seafood or Wonder Spice. Perfect places for grabbing takeout after the gym.

                  More takeout: Purple cactus. I almost always get the chicken fajita wrap here. Fresh chicken breast mixed w/onions, peppers, a bit of cheese. I actually overdosed on this place when I first moved to JP and so I've been on hiatus, but it's good food quick & cheap.

                  Even more takeout (and even quicker and cheaper): Food Wall, as suggested by others here. The food is ok, haven't had anything really stellar but for $6 max you get a ton of food if you order one of the combo plates. A main course (shredded chicken w/onions and ginger a good call), an app and rice. Not exactly the healthiest option but great value.

                  10 Tables is by far my favorite "special-occasion" place in JP and the $25 prix fixe on Wednesday nights can't be beat.

                  Zon's is cozy, comfortable, good, and not too expensive. Probably my favorite all-around-if-i-were-a-regular-this-is-where-i'd-hang sort of place.

                  I ate once at Cafe D and thought it was alright, but honestly I prefer Zon's. Maybe I need to give it another shot.

                  City Feed: as mentioned, good sandwiches, probably the best coffee in JP, also great for grabbing eggs, milk, juices, etc. They also sell Haley House pastries and a few others.

                  Doyle's: Haven't been in a while but I swear they used to have the best pancakes in the city. Crispy on the outside and chock full o' fruit on the inside. Definitely a fun spot to enjoy a bloody mary on a sunday morning. Or a good spot to hang at the bar with a pal. Great Boston history and atmosphere which I enjoy.

                  JP Licks: of course you know about the ice cream and if i were the sort of person who hung around at cafes surfing the web on my laptop, this is where i'd do it. Always an interesting mix of people and good ice cream too.

                  That's a pretty good wrap-up for now. Have fun, see you in the 'hood!

                  1. re: yumyum

                    The Cubano from EOdC is a totally different animal than the Cubano from CH, I guess it's supposed to be more authentic. I tend to get the El Oriental one takeout, as they take about an hour to make one. It's almost easier to grab one crom Miami across the street which may not be quite as good, but takes less time and is a close 2nd.

                    I like the spicy curry beef "dumplings" from Food Wall after a night at the Behan (or otherwise). More like empanadas, ask for the chili oil to up the spice quotient. Actually haven't eaten anything else at foodwall, aside from standard (most likely pre-frozen) potstickers/peking ravioli.

                    Love the sandwiches (chimis) and the chickens looked great at Alex's - would definitely ease ordering if you speak Spanish.

                    Agree on La Papusa, but it can take a while since all the papusas are hand made to order.

                    1. re: yumyum

                      Don't you worry, yumyum, I'm going to be working on getting my Armando's fix for the next few weeks. I'll be the girl with a twinkle in her eye and a bag of salty oats cookies from Formaggio tucked under her arm. ;-)

                      1. re: MB fka MB

                        Try the chocolate salty oats cookies. Those are my downfall. Both to my waistline as well as my wallet.

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          I like the plain ones way better. But I confess, when I bike during the summer, as long as I'm out for at least 30 miles or so, I get BOTH flavors. Mmmmm.

                    2. I can vouch for the roasted chickens at Alex's. You'll never go back to supermarket rotisserie or Boston Market. The crispy skins have a blend of delicious spices and the chicken is moist and flavorful. They give you a little container of sauce too, to go along with the chicken. It's good but I have no clue what's in it..though I could have sworn I detected a hint of saffron last time I had it.
                      This is perfect for quick healthy takeout after the gym --just try and stay away from those absolutely delicious fried plantains on display too!

                      One caveat --the rotisserie chickens aren't cheap; something like $11 for one, I think. I got a chicken and a few plantains and it was just under $13.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: twentyoystahs

                        An ex who used to live in that 'hood turned me on to those roasted chickens a few years back. Wow they are good, especially for a salt fiend like me. Not sure I'd call any of that food healthy takeout, tho. Yikes. My trainer would scold me for sure.

                        1. re: MB fka MB

                          Good point. I guess if you're eating the skin it's not exactly healthy. While we're on the topic of things your trainer would scold you for, the best pizza by the slice is at Same Old Place, right on Centre Street. Good Italian style pizza (vs the greek stuff which i really despise.) For a pie I'd go to Dogwood and ask for it well done, as others have mentioned.

                      2. Thanks for all the tips, 'Hounds! I'm looking forward to trolling around the new 'hood for good snacks.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MB fka MB

                          Can you fill me in on the "secret" roti place?


                          1. re: adobokid

                            Adobokid - email me offline at whatagwaan AT gmail DOT com and I'll fill you in. Just don't want to "publish" that info since it's essentially a blind pig and all.

                        2. Welcome to the neighborhood! I recently moved here too and I really enjoy JP!

                          My go-to places:

                          coffee/sweet snacks: Canto 6. Definitely. Olive rolls are fantastic, truffles are divine.

                          sandwiches: City Feed and Supply - absolutely. Try the prosciutto and mozzarella. A great big filling delicious sandwich. Cool, funky vibe too and indy magazines to browse while you wait for your food! Both Canto 6 and City Feed are great little neighborhoody places so you get to know ppl around town.

                          quick dinners: Purple Cactus - nothing spectacular that you haven't had before, but fresh, tasty, filling. You can add roasted veggies to any burrito for a couple of bucks and go light on the rice for a high-protein low-carb veggie-full meal. Their steak burrito is great, with the veggies. I personally do like to load on the guac and sour cream :)

                          Ban Chiang pad thai - nothing outrageously different here either - but my roomate ordered pad thai here last week and I couldn't believe how fresh and delicious it tasted! Light, not one of those heavy greasy pad thai dishes.

                          Sushi from JP Seafood - fresh, good, affordable. Also, they deliver :)

                          Fattening late-night subs - I like the place on the corner near Video Underground (name escapes me?). I've had the Italian grinder and a very satisfyingly greasy slice of pizza there.

                          Miami Restaurant is fun and tasty and cheap. I don't like to use the word "authentic" but I might be tempted to say that Miami and La Pupusa Guanaca are pretty close to "authentic" and remind me of little places I frequented as an expat in Latin America. Lots of fun if you like to speak/order food in Spanish and be surrounded by the language as you eat. I did hear that JP is being represented to high-end tourists in Boston as the city's "Latin Quarter" where the "real" Latin food can be found, and that made me smile.

                          I was underwhelmed by Bukhara and Wonder Spice.

                          I am really excited about trying Cha Fahn the Japanese tea house which apparently turns out really delightful dinners-- maybe we could organize a Chowhound JP evening to try it out? I've noticed several CHers expressing an interest to try it.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: foxy fairy

                            I'm up for that, I never went to the old incarnation and have always been curious. Altho they're still not the most conducive place to larger parties.

                          2. For a thai fix I'll recommend Thai Spice in West Rox (take-out). Been there a couple of times recently to counter the effects of Phuket, which was bad. Everything was good except Tom yum gai.

                            Don't Forget Apollonia, albanian food in Roslindale. Great appetizer plates.

                            1. I like being a regular at the bars of some of the restaurants. They are small bars but can be fun. You can also have a meal at the bar. Try Cafe D and Zon's. A larger bar at the Alchemist is also fun.